Bursting with some of the most incredible underwater scenery and exquisite marine life on the planet, it is no wonder the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia, attracts upwards of two million visitors each year from all around the globe. Approximately 2,900 individual hard and soft coral reefs make up the Great Barrier Reef, and together they form the biggest living structure on the planet – so big in fact, it can be seen from outer space!
Did you know that more than 600 different types of hard and soft coral, as well as a whopping 1,625 different types of fish call the Great Barrier Reef home? Whichever method you choose in order to explore the magic of the Reef, you won’t be disappointed. In this article we introduce to you five of the best ways to see and experience the Great Barrier Reef. Let’s get started!
Whether you choose to go snorkelling on the outer reef by means of a tour operator (departing from Cairns or Port Douglas), or snorkel straight off the shore of one of the tropical islands dotted along the Great Barrier Reef, such as Fitzroy Island, snorkelling is by far the most popular way of exploring the breathtaking underwater world that is the Great Barrier Reef.
Snorkelling is a popular choice among travellers for a few reasons. For example, it is affordable, it is quick and easy to put on a mask, snorkel and fins (in comparison to more technical diving equipment) and snorkelling also happens to be a very relaxing way to explore the Reef at your leisure. Whether you choose to bring your own gear, hire some from a local tour operator or a tropical island dive shop, snorkelling is a truly magical way to explore the Great Barrier Reef.
If you are chasing an experience that is a little more adventurous, then why not consider scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef? With the option to participate in a tour out to locations on the outer reef (such as Agincourt Reef), or diving straight from the shores of one of Queensland’s stunning tropical islands (e.g. Fitzroy Island), scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef is an unforgettable way to explore its extraordinary beauty.
Whether you are new to the activity of scuba diving, or a certified diver with much experience up your sleeve, Fitzroy Island, located just 45 minutes off the coast of Cairns by Fast Cat, has something to suit everyone. If you are a newbie, you might like to consider participating in a 2-hour Introductory Dive course (either in the island’s training pool or at the beach). Or, if you are looking to take scuba diving a little more seriously and become a certified diver, you can take a suitable course and soak up the incredible knowledge of the Island’s very own qualified and highly experienced PADI dive staff.
From the Air (Via Helicopter or Sea Plane)
For a truly awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping way to explore the Great Barrier Reef, you can’t go past taking a ride through the air from above, by sea plane or helicopter. Exploring the Reef from the air is a totally unique experience when compared to more traditional methods such as snorkelling and scuba diving and doing so can help you to further appreciate not only its sheer and magnificent beauty, but also its size! A camera is an absolute must, as you will experience some of the most spectacular photo opportunities of your life.
Glass Bottom Boat Tour
A Glass Bottom Boat Tour means no missing out on exploring the magic beneath the ocean’s surface if you are unable to experience the Great Barrier Reef from the water itself (e.g. by snorkelling), or you are not a keen/confident swimmer. Thankfully, a glass bottom boat ride may form part of your adventure to the outer reef with a number of different tour operators – be sure to check tour inclusions when booking your reef adventure.
Exploring the Great Barrier Reef via glass bottom boat can also be enjoyed from the shores of one of Tropical Far North Queensland’s superb tropical islands, such as stunning and unspoilt Fitzroy Island. Fitzroy Island offers glass bottom boat tours twice per day, and depending on marine conditions, you may also wish to join a night tour!
In addition to a glass bottom boat tour, sea kayaking is another fabulous option for people wanting to explore the Great Barrier Reef from above (through a glass viewing panel, if you wish!) as opposed to swimming, snorkelling or scuba diving the Reef. Sea kayaking is also an awesome form of incidental exercise, not to mention tons of fun!
You might like to consider joining one of Fitzroy Island’s 3-hour guided sea kayaking tours, which shall see you exploring different locations around the island not accessible by any other means, under the expert guidance and knowledge of an experienced guide. Your tour also includes snorkelling gear hire (with your chance to spot Green Turtles and Nemo!) and a yummy packed lunch. If exploring the waters surrounding the island at your own pace sounds more like your thing, gear is available for hire from the island’s Dive and Adventure Centre.